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    Pioneering the Data Frontier: Battlespace Management

    Pioneering the Data Frontier: Digital Battlespace Management

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    Courtesy Story

    Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department

    Adapt or die. Survival of the fittest. The threat environment is ever changing, and those unable to evolve to meet new threats risk becoming causalities of them instead. The 21st century battlespace is increasingly complex, interconnected and based in the digital world. Success on this battlefield is defined more and more by information, and the ability to analyze and contextualize the deluge of data available to warfighters.

    To meet these threats, a division within the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department recently transitioned to a name that more accurately reflects its current mission and focus: the Digital Battlespace Management Division.

    Formerly called the Information Systems/Surveillance Division, the name previously implied association with information technology and business systems. “Surveillance” gave the impression that the division was conducting clandestine operations rather than biosurveillance. On the contrary, many of the division’s projects focus on utilizing open sources to overtly observe chem/bio threats as the real nemeses to the warfighter.

    While semantics played into the decision to change, an overall shift in mission and focus was the real impetus. The new name symbolizes the nexus of well-established doctrine with the division’s innovation and new endeavors as the division forges ahead into the ever-expanding digital world to provide cutting edge science and technology to the warfighter.

    The division’s work provides the warfighter with comprehensive chem/bio data analysis and fusion capabilities supporting situational awareness, decision making and threat management digitally. To better accomplish this mission, the division has taken its core strengths of big data analytics and modeling and simulation and moved into two new areas: integrated early warning (IEW) and medical modeling. IEW utilizes non-traditional sources such as tracking behavior change through social media and wearable physiological monitoring device algorithms for presymptomatic chem/bio detection. Medical modeling provides real-time, global situational awareness of outbreaks such as the current Ebola outbreak and areas at risk for Chikingunya outbreaks. At the tactical level, models are developed to depict how a pathogen may spread through troops with and without social distancing and vaccine protection and the effect of appropriate medical countermeasures on slowing the spread of infectious disease.

    As the Digital Battlespace Management Division pioneers the digital frontier, a critical move is towards artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Machine learning algorithms can be trained to determine if someone is ill based on facial analysis alone. In fact, one of the division’s applications successfully predicted a colleague’s illness days before they showed any symptoms.

    AI provides anomaly detection capabilities which are currently being used to highlight changes in physiology. Detecting these changes could act as a sentinel in pre-symptomatic chem/bio detection. Anomaly detection can also be used to detect potential air, food and water-borne pathogens allowing for force protection and decontamination pre-exposure. AI also provides a more rapid and accurate threat analysis, which could save crucial hours, minutes and seconds that could be the difference between health and exposure or death.

    The Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability (HPAC) modeling suite is a forward-deployable, collateral-effects assessment tool that accurately predicts the effects of hazardous chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) material releases into the atmosphere and its impact on civilian and military populations accounting for various parameters, e.g. weather effects, urban vs. rural settings and attack modality.

    HPAC model development and improvement transforms threat agent science data into operational capabilities through continuously updated material files including those for Non-Traditional and Pharmaceutical Based Agents. HPAC also models CBRN and high explosive collateral effects resulting from conventional weapon strikes against adversary production and storage facilities.

    DTRA utilizes HPAC to analyze complex problems in support of combatant commands at the tactical and strategic level. It is currently being transitioned to integrate fully with the Joint Program Executive Office’s Joint Effects Model for compilation into a comprehensive CBRN hazard tactical and analytical tool for warfighters. Similarly, the Biosurveillance Ecosystem, which enables real-time early warning and course of action analysis, has been adopted by the Department of Homeland Security’s National Biosurveillance Integration Center.

    The newly named division is also rapidly executing tools for hand-held units and special operations forces. Improved smartphone processing technology, such as neural processing units, enable high-performance mobile machine learning operations. Powerful processing units also enable cloud-less operations, enabling access to decision aids and reference guides offline.

    A recent intern competition returned a mobile app version of HPAC’s transport and dispersion model called Second-order Closure Integrated Puff (SCIPUFF). The app, called the Mobile Hazard Effects Tool, can be used offline to rapidly compute downwind hazard fatality and casualty areas from predefined chemical and biological scenarios utilizing SCIPUFF and the Chemical/biological Operational Decision Aid human effects models for chem/bio materials.

    Other hand-held tools in development include a filter performance app, real-time visualization of integrated chemical sensor data, disease risk decision tree, a symptom-driven tick-borne disease differential diagnosis tool and various offline reference guides.

    In a constantly changing threat environment, the Digital Battlespace Management Division provides the warfighter with the necessary forewarning, agility, operability and informed risk analyses to operate in a CBRN contaminated environment. The unique focus of our unit provides warfighters with the situational awareness they need to fight and win, no matter what threats they face.

    DTRA POC: John Hannan, Ph.D.; john.r.hannan2.civ@mail.mil



    Date Taken: 12.17.2018
    Date Posted: 12.19.2018 08:17
    Story ID: 303873
    Location: FORT BELVOIR, VA, US 

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